A landmark Scottish hotel damaged by a serious fire may not need to be demolished, an engineer has said. 

Flames ripped through the spire of the derelict Ayr Station Hotel back in September, causing major disruption to the town as roads were closed and the railway station shut down.

But there could be alternative strategies to save the listed building, a new report submitted to South Ayrshire Council has suggested. 

Prepared by conservation engineer Ed Morton and supported by the SAVE Britain's Heritage campaign, the report outlines an alternative means of securing public safety around the wrecked building, and a means to allow the adjoining road and station to be reopened as quickly and safely as possible. 

Read more: Ayr Station Hotel must not be demolished after fire

This approach would aim to respect the listed status of the building and secure time to consider the right approach to save it, heritage groups have said. 

The alternative strategy follows a meeting hosted by South Ayrshire Council leaders, including chief executive Mike Newall, on November 1.

Mr Morton said: "It is disappointing that their engineers did not attend to explain their assessment of the building and that the drone footage shown to us has not been forwarded as agreed to allow greater interrogation, despite several requests.

"I am encouraged, however, that Mike Newall confirmed that they would consider alternative options such as use of the scaffold as I suggested. I continue to offer my assistance.”

The report, submitted to South Ayrshire Council, includes three stages for securing the hotel and avoiding the need for an "irreversible and costly" demolition. These are: 

  • Stage 1: remove all loose debris and material from the building and environs, including any damaged scaffolding 

  • Stage 2: instigate structural support works to secure the building and make it safe, including strengthening and reuse of the existing scaffolding which looks to remain remarkably intact from close visual inspection and drone footage

  • Stage 3: reopen A70 road bridge, railway line and station. With the building and environs made safe, careful assessment of options to repair the listed building

After viewing drone footage, Mr Morton said the building's south gable wall appears less damaged than expected. 

The engineer, who has experience with severely fire-damaged listed buildings, concluded the proposed taking down of the wall is "neither justified nor necessary" to make the building safe. And he said doing so could even undermine the structural integrity of the entire building.

Jocelyn Cunliffe, vice-chair of the Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland, said: “The AHSS hopes  South Ayrshire Council is able to work with SAVE’s experts, to find a way to stabilise the building, while maintaining public safety, and then assess options to repair the listed Station Hotel.

"The future preservation of this building is of vital importance to this key historic town.”

The Herald: Ayr Station Hotel on fireAyr Station Hotel on fire (Image: Robert Collie)

SAVE is calling on South Ayrshire Council to urgently adopt the approach set out in Mr Morton’s advice and avoid any "hasty and irreversible" decisions to demolish the listed building.  

Henrietta Billings, director of SAVE Britain’s Heritage, said: “Since the devastating fire, Ed Morton and SAVE have offered to assist the council at every step of the way to ensure the best outcome for this important listed building and the people of Ayr.

"This report shows that clear and reasonable alternatives to demolition exist. Mr Morton’s staged approach offers a practical and expedient strategy to ensure the station hotel is made safe with the key objective of allowing the road and railway to be reopened as soon as possible.”

A spokesperson for South Ayrshire Council said it was too early to say how much of the building will need to be removed.

They said: “We can confirm a meeting took place with Mr Morton and other representatives from SAVE. The Council’s structural engineer expert was in attendance, and advised of the need to undertake urgent safety works.

"Only dangerous parts of the building will be removed so that Station Bridge Road can reopen and trains can operate from Ayr Station as soon as possible. It is too early to say how much of the building will need to be removed. We will continue to update representatives from SAVE and discussions will continue.”